By CÉSAR VALLEJO.
Translated by César Eduardo Jumpa Sánchez.
—NOBODY LIVES IN the house anymore— you tell me—; everyone has left. The living room, the bedroom, the courtyard, remain unpopulated. Nobody remains, since everybody has departed.
—And I tell you: Whenever someone leaves, somebody stays. The spot by which a man has passed, is not empty any longer. It is solely alone, from human solitude, the place by which no man has passed. New houses are deader than old ones, because their walls are made of stone or steel, but not of men. A house comes to the world, not when people have just built it, but when they start to inhabit it. A house lives only by its men, as in a coffin. It’s just that the house is nourished by the life of man, while the coffin is nourished by the death of man. That’s why the former one is standing, while the latter is outstretched.
—Everybody has left the house, in reality, but everybody has remained in truth. And it is not the memory of them which remains, but they themselves. And it is neither that they remain inside the house, but that they continue around the house. Functions and acts leave the house by train or plane or on horseback, by foot or crawling. What continues in the house is the organ, the agent in gerund and in circle. The footsteps have departed, the kisses, the apologies, the crimes. What continues in the house is the foot, the lips, the eyes, the heart. Negations and affirmations, good and evil, have dispersed.
—What stays in the house, is the subject of the act.
PARIS, OCTOBER 1936.
FROM ALL THIS I am the only one departing.
From this bench I’m off, from my underpants,
from my grand situation, from my actions,
from my number splintered part by part,
from all this I am the only one departing.
From the Champs-Élysées turning round
the strange alleyway of the Moon,
my demise goes off, my cradle leaves,
and, surrounded by people, alone, loose,
my human likeness turns around
and dispatches its shadows one by one.
And I drift apart from it all, since all
remains to become the alibi:
my shoe, its eyelet, its mud as well
and even the fold of the elbow
of my own buttoned-up shirt.
BLACK STONE OVER A WHITE STONE
—I WILL DIE in Paris with a downpour,
on a day which I can already recall.
I will die in Paris —and I don’t split—
maybe on a Thursday, as is today of autumn.
—Thursday it will be, for today, Thursday,
as I prose these verses, I’ve put my humeri on
the hard way and, never like today, have I again,
with my entire path, seen myself alone.
—César Vallejo has died, they all beat
him without him doing anything to them;
they struck him hard with a stick and hard
—with a rope as well, witnesses are
the Thursdays and the humeri bones,
the solitude, the rain, the roads…
—IT JUST MIGHT be, I’m another, strolling, at dawn, another who marches
toward a large disc, an elastic disc:
lethal, figurative, clever diaphragm.
It just might be, I recall while I wait, I jot marbles down
where a scarlet index, and where a bronze mattress,
a bastard, enraged, vanishing fox.
It might just be, finally a man,
spines spread over with a clemency of indigo,
it just might be, I say to myself, beyond there’s nothing.
—The sea hands me the disc, referring it,
with peculiar dry margin, to my throat;
nothing, truly, more acidic, nor sweeter, more Kantian!
But, someone else’s sweat, or serum
or meekness from the tempest,
decaying or up-going, that, never!
—Sprawled, subtle I self-exhume,
tumid the mixture in which I thump into,
no legs, no adult mud, no weapons,
a needle perched on the grand atom…
No! Never! Never yesterday! Never after!
—And from yonder this satanic tuber,
this plesiosaurus’ moral molar
and these posthumous suspicions,
this index, this bed, these tickets.
—IT WAS SUNDAY on the clear ears of my donkey,
of my Peruvian donkey in Peru (excuse the sadness)
But today it’s already eleven in my personal experience,
experience of one lone eye, nailed full in the chest,
of one lone stupidity, nailed full in the chest,
of one lone hecatomb, nailed full in the chest.
—Thus from my land do I see the pictured mounds,
wealthy from donkeys, sons of donkeys, parents today in sight,
who already turn painted in beliefs,
horizontal mounds of my sorrow.
—On his statue, sword-bearing,
Voltaire swipes his cape and stares at the plinth,
but the sun penetrates me and scares off from my incisors,
a grown number of inorganic bodies.
—And then I dream on a greenish
numeral ridge that I had forgotten,
sound of years in the needle rumble of my arm,
rain and sun in Europe, and, how I cough! how I live!
how my hair hurts when glimpsing the weekly centuries!
And how, by a twist, my microbial cycle,
I mean to say my tremulous, patriotic hairdo.
CÉSAR VALLEJO (Santiago de Chuco, 1892 – Paris, 1938) was one of the most emblematic poets in the Hispano-American world of the twentieth century. As a teenager, he moved to the coastal town of Trujillo, where he completed his undergraduate studies while composing verse that was to later appear in the volumes Los heraldos negros (1919) and Trilce (1922), both groundbreaking creations in the milieu of the predominantly modernista aesthetic, championed by the Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío. After a few years in Lima and an unfortunate turn of events that resulted in his imprisonment at a Trujillo jail for almost four months, he decided to emigrate to France in 1923.
He mostly published journalistic prose during the last fifteen years of his life, leaving a sheaf of papers to his widow Georgette upon his early demise during the Spanish Civil War. The poems would eventually become known as Poemas Humanos or Poemas de París (1939). His earthly remains repose within the 12th division of the Montparnasse cemetery in the XIVe district of the French capital.
César Jumpa Sánchez is a writer and visual artist hailing from Trujillo, Peru. He moved to New York in his early teens, shortly after the events of 9/11. His initial work includes the poetry collections Viracocha Borealis (Palibrio, 2012) and Grizal (McNally Jackson Books, 2015), both in Spanish. During this period, he attended many literary readings with the collective Poetas en Nueva York, a crew of itinerant Latin-American writers. He emigrated toEurope in 2016, first to Barcelona, then to Paris, where he has been living and carrying out his research. He currently works on a dissertation in Comparative Literature at the University of Paris X Nanterre, whilst producing articles for academic journals like Espergesia and translating and commenting texts by Modernist-era writers, in collaboration with the digital magazine Vallejo & Company, for which he produced a new translation of Eliot’s The Waste Land.